Remote work is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean remote is the right option for everyone. Before applying for a new job, one question you must ask is: Is remote work right for me? We can’t answer that question, but we asked our team to highlight the main pros and cons of working remotely so you can access how these apply to you.
Advantages of remote work
Avoid commute and traffic
Not having to waste hours stuck in traffic while commuting to work is one of the main benefits of working remotely. A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York confirms this, where data shows remote workers are saving 60 million hours per day by not having to go to the office. This is time you can spend with family and friends, mastering a new hobby or skill, playing sports, or simply relaxing and enjoying your home.
Max, our Senior Content Strategist, gives a great example
I can actually spend time at home. I put a lot of time, effort, and money into the roof over my head and when I worked in an office it turned into just a place to sleep and eat. Now I feel like I appreciate my home more. — Max Gayler, Senior Content Strategist
Flexibility with your schedule and place of work
Another obvious benefit is the ability to choose where you work from—your home, a co-working space, or an entirely new country. In most cases, you also decide when you work. It’s not unusual for remote workers to have flexibility around their schedule and be able to balance work throughout the day with family duties, doctor appointments, or exercising. Another benefit is having the flexibility to take breaks when you need and organize work around your productivity peaks.
A not-so-obvious advantage is being able to travel without using time off. Just because you have to fly somewhere, doesn't mean you have got to use precious vacation time. Some examples from our team here at Claap: Pierre, one of our co-founders, spent almost a month in Thailand, using the hours that overlapped with Europe to work while taking diving classes while the rest of us were sleeping. Another example is Piotr, our software engineer that is about to take a three month break from the cold Polish weather to work from Gran Canaria.
More focus and efficiency
When we work in the same space as our team, it’s easier to go to someone’s table when we have a question or want quick feedback on something. While this may sound convenient at first, it also means the office is full of interruptions that disrupt our focus time. Not only that, the constant noise and side conversations make it harder to concentrate. When we can choose where to work from, we also have better control over our environment and possible distractions.
Disadvantages of remote work
Fewer social interactions with your team
By far the most cited con of being a remote worker is the reduction of social interaction with your team. The lack of casual encounter in the hall, having lunch with co-workers, or even having a drink after hours means we need to make an effort to meet people and have conversations outside of meetings and slack threads. It’s easy to feel we only know the professional side of our colleagues, but that we don't really know them personally.
Remote work means fewer distractions for sure but it can be hard for the mind not see colleagues and laugh with them — Aurélien Dupays Dexemple, Software Engineer
To overcome this at Claap, we set up regular team activities, such as virtual coffees and games, home workout sessions we do as a group, and even sharing a personal highlight of our weekend on Monday mornings. Other ideas include working from a co-working space from time to time if you live nearby someone from your team, having regular off-sites, or simply calling your colleagues during a coffee break.
Harder to set boundaries and switch on/off
When the office is your living room or just a few meters away from your living room, it can be hard to get into the right state of mind to focus on the task at hand, be it working on a project or relaxing while reading a book. It’s common to find your mind wandering back and forth between work and personal time.
More flexibility with personal life can also become a burden and come with mental health or productivity issues. When we need to go to the office, it forces us to take a nanny or a day off if a child is sick or if there is something important to deal with in our personal life. This is less flexible for sure in the short term, but when mixing private and work life all the time, it can become heavy to deal with — Robin Bonduelle, Co-founder and CEO
Some ideas to make it easier to switch on/off work: set a regular schedule, starting and ending the work-day at a similar time every day and stick to it as much as possible; create a physical ritual, like going outside for a 5-min walk before and after working hours; and sometimes even a short meditation session can help to change your mindset. And please use your paid time off, not just to travel and do exciting things, but also when your body tells you it’s time to take a break.
Miscommunication and misalignment
Working alongside your colleagues makes it easier to be in the loop of important discussions. You see office movements, can have a quick catchup with your team and it’s even easier to see when a crisis is going on. Working remotely definitely imposes a challenge. Without the right processes and rituals in place, we can feel left out of decisions and feel that it’s harder to move projects forward. The solution is to enable the right frequency of reporting and processes that give visibility on what everyone is working on and when they need help, without resulting in meeting overload and excessive notifications. Some ideas of what we have implemented at Claap can be found in this article: 3 Remote proof tips to make asynchronous work work.
Once upon a time remote working meant turning your dining table into a desk and your hallway into a meeting room. And while there are still plenty of ways to help make remote working a more engaging option, the technology to support your physical and mental wellbeing at work is already at your fingertips.